There are many people who inspire us. We hold them in awe. St Alphonsa, or Alphonsamma as she is fondly called, was one such person. The first Indian-born woman to be canonized, St Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor near Kottayam. This is a journey to follow her footsteps. A journey that will take you through the important places in her life. But first, a look at her humble life.
Her early life
The daughter of Joseph and Mary of the Muttathupadam family, she was born on 19 August, 1910, at Kudamalur, just 6 km away from Kottayam. She was christened Annakutty. She lost her mother when just three months old and was brought up by her mother’s sister at the Murikkan family in Muttuchira nearby. Even as a child, she longed to become a nun. When her marriage was proposed, she deliberately burnt her foot in order to avoid it. On the day of the Pentecost in 1927, she was admitted to the Franciscan Clara order at Bharananganam.
From the date she joined the convent, she was dogged by various diseases. Her life was one of suffering and devotion. Though racked by pain herself, her prayers resulted in wonderful cures and solace for the many people who flocked to her. Selfless in her love, she lived for others, until her death on 28 July, 1946. She was declared a Servant of God in 1953 and a Saint on 12 October, 2008.
Following her footsteps
The devout undertake a pilgrimage of all the places associated with St Alphonsa's life. It will be ideal if you can stay at Kottayam. You start your pilgrimage from her birthplace in the Muttathupadam house, Kudamalur just 6 kilometers away, half a kilometer from Panambalan Junction on the Kottayam-Medical College route. The St Mary’s Forane church where she was baptized is just a kilometer from there. Thirteen kilometers away near Muttuchira on the Ettumanur-Ernakulam route is the Murikkan house, where St Alphonsa spent her childhood. About 22 km further on, beyond Pala, is Bharananganam, where she spent her life and attained martyrdom at the Franciscan Clara Convent. The Alphonsa Museum in Bharananganam is a must visit, too.
Thousands flock to St Alphonsa's tomb every year. During the 10-day feast in July, the number of devotes goes up. Thousands take this pilgrimage - and bow down at her tomb, with a prayer on their lips, and with unwavering faith.
The annual feast is held from 18 July to 28 July.